Sunday, March 24, 2019

Turn aside

The Book of Exodus speaks today of a physical motion that is an important part of this Lenten season.  While Moses was tending his father’s flock, he led the animals to the mountain of God where he encountered something very curious and turned aside to look at this great sight (Ex 3:3).  As we continue our journey toward the celebration of Easter, we too need to turn aside from our regular routines so that we can take stock of the lives we have lived, where we are in relation to our God, to others and to ourselves, and where we would like to be.

In all sincerity, we strive to stand before the Lord.  Although we are conscious of our own weakness whenever we are in the presence of God, our heavenly Father wishes only to make us aware of the fruitfulness that is the reward for our faithfulness.  Every one of us has been created in love, and God’s hope for us is that we do far more than merely occupy space here on earth.  We are meant to bear fruit through the loving words we speak and the acts of kindness and compassion we share with others.

Some of us who are here today might still not have given much thought to slowing down the frantic pace of our daily lives during Lent, much less turning aside so that we can truly consider the Lord’s invitation to take stock of the fruitfulness of our lives, yet there is still time to do this.  Like the skilled gardener mentioned in the gospel (cf Lk 13:8), during the season of Lent, it sometimes feels as though Jesus, the master gardener is digging around in our hearts, tending to the soil and feeding our souls.  This can be an uncomfortable process, but such change must take place so that we can grow stronger in our convictions and ultimately bear fruit in the ways we share the joy of our faith with others.

Lent can be a time when we are made aware of some less appealing aspects of our own personalities, yet the journey toward conversion can provide us with essential nutrients that will lead to our growth.  Our ancestors in faith also encountered such opportunities for change.  Saint Paul speaks in the second reading about the gifts that the Lord offers to us as sources of strength for our journey and for our growth.  Like those who have gone before us in faith, we too have been baptized, we too eat the spiritual food of the Eucharist and we too drink from the same spiritual chalice (cf 1 Cor 10:2-4).

Strengthened by these gifts, and relying on the mercy of the Lord, we stand firmly but humbly in his presence to say yes to His invitation to receive mercy and forgiveness.  On two occasions in today’s gospel passage, Jesus points out that he is not as concerned with the gravity of what his children may have done in order to turn away from him (cf Lk 13:2-5).  What is important is that we find the courage to turn aside, to look honestly at our own realities and at the invitation that is being extended to us at this time: an invitation to change our ways, so that the soil in which we live can be renewed.

In the coming days, let us dare to turn aside, to look with renewed sight at the relationship we are currently experiencing with our God, with others and with ourselves ... and let us ask the Lord to renew us in his love.

Friday, March 22, 2019

His Word Today: Caught

Good morning everyone,

In today's gospel passage, we see a master at work.  Jesus was an intelligent story teller.  He used stories to teach lessons to anyone who would listen.  In this case, the story that was told - about the landowner and the dishonest tenants (Mt 21:33-39) - ended up surprising its hearers, because the object of his lesson was the people who were listening.

This was often the case with the parables: stories that Jesus told in order to make a point.  If we look honestly at these stories, we may even find ourselves among the characters.  At times, that realization can bring us comfort, but at other times, it can challenge us.

In modern-day parlance, someone might say that we should always think before we act.  Today, let us ask the Lord to walk before us, where ever we go; to guide our words so that we can be instruments of peace and reconciliation; and to inspire our actions so that we can bring light to those who are still walking in darkness.  By the sincerity of our faith, may others encounter the face of Jesus himself.

Have a great day.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

His Word Today: Costly

Good morning everyone,

Every day of our lives, we should strive to learn something, including today.  Jesus was always teaching ... and he continues to teach us, including today.  In the gospel passage proposed for today's meditation, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who dressed in purple (a cloth that would only have been available to the rich) garments and fine linens and dined sumptuously every day (Lk 16:19), but who ignored the poor in his midst.

The man in Jesus' story was so self-centred that he was oblivious to the poor in his very midst.  Jesus knew that every human being has the tendency to focus on him- or herself.  He also knew that we have the capability to truly be self-giving.  The challenge is that we need to be reminded - from time to time - about the fact that we have it within ourselves to focus our attention on others, to love, to forgive, to experience emotions.

Let us keep before us the image of the rich man who is mentioned in today's gospel.  He is alive within each one of us, but we also have the ability to be more, much more.  This is God's loving plan for all of us.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

His Word Today: Distracted

Good morning everyone,

During the season of Lent, our prayer leads us to be especially focused on Jesus' voice, but the more we progress through these days, the more possible it becomes that we might lose our focus and become distracted.

Evidence of distraction shows up in today's gospel.  As he was preparing to go to Jerusalem, where he knew that his hour would be fulfilled, he tried to explain the significance of this moment to his disciples: we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over ... and they will condemn him to death ... and he will be raised on the third day (Mt 20:18-19).  The problem was that his disciples were distracted because they had other ideas.

Jesus is trying to speak to us every day, but we have to be listening.  If we are distracted by other worries or if we have our own ideas about what we would like God to do for us, it will be more difficult to listen, to allow Him to lead us along the path he intends us to travel as we make our way toward the celebration of Easter.  Thankfully, it's not too late.  We can still refocus our attention.  We can still listen, if we are able to identify the noises that are distracting us, and if we are willing to set them aside.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

His Word Today; Saint Joseph

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.  Saint Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man (Mt 1:19).  We are not told how old he was when Mary, his betrothed, was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18).  This would have been an unimaginable embarrassment for anyone.  Joseph would have been entirely within his rights to divorce her, yet because he wanted to spare her any undue attention, he intended to do so quietly.

That was the very point at which the next chapter in God's plan was made known to him: the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ... 'do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home (Mt 1:20).  Because he was a righteous man, and because he was accustomed to listening for the inspiration of God's wisdom, Joseph followed the angel's advice and God's will was accomplished.

It took great humility on his part to allow his own will to be silenced so that the will of God could come to pass.  If we have known the struggle of not wanting to cooperate with heavenly wisdom, but rather to impose our own will, perhaps we can pray today, asking Saint Joseph to strengthen our resolve to find room in our hearts to listen attentively for God's inspiration, and for the humility to allow God's plan to come to pass.

Have a great day.

Monday, March 18, 2019

His Word Today: Mercy

Good morning everyone,

A few years ago, Pope Francis called for a special extra-ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.  At the beginning of his pontificate, he wanted to show everyone that the Church should have a merciful face.  In other words, it should always be seen as a place of refuge, not judgement.

Every year, as we prepare for Easter, we are encouraged to encounter the merciful face of Jesus.  In today's gospel passage, we hear the words that He spoke to his disciples: Be merciful just as your Father is merciful (Lk 6:36).  It takes work to practice mercy.

The world around us temps us to respond to judgement with judgement, to condemn those who utter words of condemnation, but Jesus challenges us to forgive and to respond to hatred with a giving heart.  Responding with mercy can be surprising, especially for those who are in need of mercy.  Let's try to be merciful today, like our heavenly Father ... and watch the reactions of others.

Have a great day.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Forging faith

During the liturgical season of Lent, we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter.  During this first week, the Lord invites us to come close to him, to open our hearts to him and to enter into a conversation with him.  Like any other relationship, there is a part of us that hears the Lord’s invitation but might be a bit hesitant, so it might help us to remember others who have also received such a proposal.

In the first reading, we hear about the invitation that God offered to Abram.  As it is in all other cases, God was extremely gentle with Abram, inviting him first to look toward heaven and count the stars ... (Gn 15:5). Then God surprised Abram.  Prior to this encounter, Abram and Sarah had never had children, yet the Lord said to him: So shall your descendants be – as numerous as the stars.

The human heart is sometimes slow to believe what God has in store for us, but God never stops believing in us.  God knew the plan that he had in mind for Abram.  He also knew what was in store for the disciples.  At a certain point, when the disciples were finding it difficult to understand all that Jesus was trying to teach them, he took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray (Lk 9:28).  Most probably, by this point in their relationship, the disciples had seen Jesus at prayer, but they were not prepared for the scene they witnessed that day.  While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white (Lk 9:29).  As if that wasn’t enough, suddenly, they saw two men – Moses and Elijah – talking to Jesus (Lk 9:10).

An Irish Bishop once explained that Jesus invited the disciples Peter, James and John to witness the transfiguration so that later on, when they experienced the shock and trauma of His passion and death, these three could help them to understand that the passion and death of Jesus were meant to be, but that he would indeed rise again.

Like the disciples, we too need to experience the transfiguration so that we can better understand that suffering and death will always lead to resurrection and new life.  Those of us who have experienced moments of prayer where we are made profoundly aware of Jesus’ presence can understand that there truly is something beyond this world that we can see, feel and touch.  At times when we encounter difficulties or challenges in this life, at times when we must face the questions that truly make us aware of our own mortality, it helps to have a spiritual dimension to our lives.

As Saint Paul reminded the early Christians at Philippi, our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).  Only someone who has encountered the risen Jesus can truly speak such words with conviction, yet this is exactly what we are all called to do.  As we continue our journey through Lent, let us fix our eyes firmly on Jesus.  Let us ask him to help us deepen our faith and our belief that the suffering of Good Friday is never in vain, but rather that it prepares the way for the greatest miracle, the reason for our faith.  As we become more and more aware of this truth, we too will be better able to see the truth that suffering and death ultimately leads to resurrection and the fullness of life.